Monday, March 01, 2004

Does liking something that's popular make you uncool?

Originally posted on Barbelith.

Just by virtue of posting here, you probably consider yourself a bit smarter/cultured than the average person out there, and as a result, your taste in films, TV and books is obviously above average. At least, I like to think that mine is. So, I often find myself subconsciously not liking the movie or book that's really popular at the moment.

I remember when Fellowship of the Ring came out, I was really psyched, and no one else around me was. I went on opening night alone, because I couldn't get anyone else to go on a week night. I absolutely loved the film, and was talking it up to people who were really skeptical about. A year later, it's time for Two Towers, and I've got a posse of eight people ready to go with me on opening day, and it seems like every person I run in to is really psyched about the film. Then, tonight I'm watching the Oscars, and people are really rooting for Return of the King to win stuff, and seeing this enthusiasm, I'm almost rooting against the film on some level, whereas I was celebrating every Fellowship victory. I actually think RotK is the best film in the trilogy, but it's almost more difficult to get excited about it when it's so popular among everyone.

There seems to be a moment when a film goes from being "your" film, to becoming a completely mainstream film. The film itself hasn't changed, but some of the cache of watching it has. An example of a film where this is happening right now is Donnie Darko. About a year ago, you say you're watching Donnie Darko, and people either say, "What?" or, for the minority who've seen the film, you sort of make a connection, like you're part of a secret group who've seen the film. However, now, it seems like everyone has either seen the film, or at least heard of it, and it loses some of that secret club feel. I don't think the Barbelith thread on Donnie Darko would be as full of joy if the film wasn't discovered like a secret on here, instead was heard about through more mainstream channels.

So, instead of being a cult film, it's almost become institutionalized, and as a result, it's not as cool to name drop the film, since practically everyone's seen it. You can see this sort of thing in early 90's film with Star Wars references. Before the re-release in '97, the films were basically dead, and dropping a reference put you in touch with the select group who remembered the film, and gained you some street cred. You could make a good argument that Kevin Smith's entire career is due to the Star Wars reference in Clerks.

So, do you find yourself feeling a backlash when a film you like becomes popular and mainstream? It may be tough to admit, but on some level, when you hear people at your job or school you don't respect talking about a film you used to really love as a cult thing, do you find it tough to be passionate about the film anymore? After all, no one says that independent, undiscovered crap, but mainstream Hollywood crap is thrown around quite readily.

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